Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Little Sis!

Today is my little sister's birthday!
Happy Birthday, Anne!

She is a single mom who has raised two good kids.
She is grandma to one great little pixie.

She has worked and saved,
...and now she is BUILDING HER OWN HOUSE!

It sits at the top of a hill overlooking a small private lake.

It is a dream of hers that she has worked very hard to make come true!
She had it carefully planned.
It will be very energy efficient.
She has shopped for the right stuff and made sure she got the right price.

Soon she will move in and I could not be happier for her!

Happiest of birthdays, Anne....
I hope it's
a good one for you...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clickety Clack: Takin' Me Back...!

I recently had a job that only a typewriter could do.

As I was clacking away at the keys with all my might, it brought back some memories of typewriters in my life.

I don't think kids now know what one might be, but it was really a thing of wonder back before the computer.
I was a kid of the sixties and seventies and learned to type on a manual in a basic business class: Typing 1.

We were watched to make sure we kept our fingers on the home rows, and our business teacher quietly walked the straight rows of desks to oversee and help troubleshoot. (She was one of my favorite teachers and heck if I haven't forgotten her name!)

If you passed Typing 1 you could then take Typing 2 and I did, as well as any other business classes our high school offered. That is how I knew I wanted to be some sort of secretary: I have always loved pens, paper, office supplies and the typewriter and calculator. the time high school was over I'd taken business law, business etiquette, shorthand for business and the king of them all: a business BLOCK (which was a two-hour long class where we had our own desks, our own rolling chairs, and our own IMB SELECTRIC SELF CORRECTING TYPEWRITERS...for crying out loud!

Those IBM Selectrics were a wonder and the latest technology! I got to go so fast on those things I just loved the speed tests. I think at my peak it was 90 WPM.

I got my first job as a co-op student in high school as an assistant to the librarian and I spent many hours clacking away, typing up card catalog cards with titles, authors, category, ISBN numbers.

I got paid $2 an hour and I thought I was big stuff, collecting a check every two weeks from the school district.

After high school, my first real job was as a secretary to the owner of a small chain of hardware stores. Darned if he had one of the old manuals. It took me years to talk him into buying one of my beloved IBM Selectric typewriters! I typed many carbon copies on company letterhead and knew how to use that white-out and self-correcting tape like a pro.

I made decent money as an office manager to the man as his company grew, but he was never ever one to be "up" on office technology and even spurned a personal computer for the ease of "word processing" programs.

He finally did relent and buy a used computer (!!!) in the late eighties and what a difference composing correspondence and business documents became.

How things have changed. (I know that makes me sound OLD! but I am under 50!) Most of all business now is done via the computer, internet and email, blackberries and iPhones.

Business letter composition classes are probably no longer taught. I knew many forms of business letter and my favorite was the block style. (Anyone know what in the world I'm talking about?)

Today as I see kids use the email and see how sloppy we've gotten about punctuation and indentation and spacing, salutations and signatures I think how I'm not even that ancient and things have changed so much.

But for a while the other night, I was happily clickety-clacking away on my old portable typewriter, bought at a sale for $2...thinking how someday I'm going to be the gray-haired lady telling the "kids" about all our old contraptions.

And they'll give me the same blank look I'm sure I've given old-timers in the past!
Anyone remember the old punch-button adding machines and cash registers? (I'm raising my hand!)

Below is a short video of me getting my hands on an old cash register similar to that I worked on at the hardware store back in 1981. This was taken in November when I went to Illinois to visit my niece and went to see Ang of "Parisienne Farmgirl" blog fame. (The light blue link will take you to her story of our meeting, so funny! The red link will take you to my story of going to her area and the farm sale.)

Me, Amelie', Ang, Aiden, Mary

She took us to the cutest ever little consignment/thrift store in her cute downtown area and the proprietor there was so nice and allowed me to get behind the counter and use the cash register to ring up my stuff. (The sounds just took me back!)

I had a little trouble as you can see! Ha!

Do you miss the clickety clack of the typewriter, the old adding machines and cash registers?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mark's House: Before and After Projects

I guess my son bought the house, but he's more than happy to have mom do a "makeover".

This is the kitchen in Mark's house can't tell from this picture, but the walls are pink sponge paint, with a pearly over-glaze. Pretty, perhaps for some, but not for my burly boy.

It was for sure one of the things he said HAD TO GO. Oh, as well as the nice pink trim on the counter top edges. No way was that sticking around! Other than that, there wasn't a terrible amount of work to do in this room to get it livable again.

The basics were good. Although I'd never seen a kitchen refaced with ALL Formica over the counters, cabinet doors and drawers, vent hood and back splashes, at least it was in very good condition and looked like it would be easy to clean up. And it was, with a lot of elbow grease, my friend Mr. Clean and his sidekick, that fellow they call "Magic Eraser", we had the kitchen looking good in NO TIME.

The thing about this white Formica is that it's super easy to clean up and even the inside of the cupboard doors are covered with it! Inside, though is still the old dark wood from the original seventies kitchen, but that was made lighter and better with a nice tan plaid kitchen cupboard liner.

To solve the problem of the pink counter top edge, we called the local counter top shop, which is less than a mile away and for $150, we could replace just the edges with these clean looking Formica mottled tan edges--it was all done in a couple of hours.

I think it looks GREAT and matches the floor, which was one of our goals to tie things together. We knew if we tried to match the white, it would make the rest of the Formica look yellowed because of age.

And this is the kitchen AFTER! Much better!

I'm sorry I had to use flash in these photos, but the kitchen paint color is a very light tan...or a sand color, best to match the floor. It's going to eventually have accent colors of light blue and robins' egg blue and brown.

The clock I bought is way too big...will remedy that later. All appliances came with the house including washer and dryer. There was even a gas grill on the deck that needs a little work, but hey, Mark works at a hardware store and can get all the parts there! There were nice updated brushed nickel knobs and pulls on the kitchen cupboards, and the new fixture over the table is also brushed nickel.

I will enjoy getting the curtains made for the kitchen....and won't miss these gaudy things you see in the picture below. We will for sure have more understated window dressings and it will more than likely be simple stripes and NO swags and NO sponge-painted wooden curtain rods and brackets.

This is BEFORE...and below...after.

We still have to trim the chain on the fixture over the table. I am watching at TJ Maxx for a rug for under the table. (The stripes on the wall on the left is a reflection of light off the french doors.) I also got my barn prints back the other day and the sepia prints will look great in here.

This kitchen is huge and connects to the living room through those cute french doors (with vintage glass doorknobs!). We were told that the original owners had a sitting area here where the table sits and their kitchen table was directly to our right.

This is our old table, we removed the leaves and set it up...this thing looked HUGE in our kitchen, Mark's kitchen is so big, it looks tiny! (This cape cod is 1780 sq. ft.)

This is the "before" picture of the scarlet living room. Mark hates the shelving surrounding the fireplace but right now, we've left it, and are deciding whether to paint it or remove it. It's great storage for electronics and audio and dvd's and video games, but it's all seventies faux wood grain FORMICA! Inside the lower doors, are also wonderful storage areas with pull-out drawers and more.

We matched the walls to the carpet, it's a darker tan than the kitchen but in the same family--a safe choice. The leather furniture seems to overpower, he may have overbought. At first he had just the recliner and the couch, but then he reconsidered and bought the love seat too. The seller at the store he bought was in a really good discounting mood and so he got almost a thousand off the set, I was impressed.

BUT, it is a guy's place and movies and video games are a big deal to these young guys, so they don't care if the furniture seems too big for the room; they just all want a comfy place to sit! (And this furniture IS comfy!) The carpet cleaned up really well, I don't think it's very old at all.

There's his TJ Maxx rug I got him and we went back together so I could show him this ottoman and he liked it. Inside, there were two matching footstools, and the top of the ottoman flips over for a dual purpose, the one side is for a footstool, the other has a deep tray for drinks (seen here holding his throw pillows).

Since I took this shot, I dug around in our little stash of goodies in the garage and found a temporary solution for an end table here. It's a two tier and works well for now, it was free from someone's trash! I can paint it in the spring when it gets nicer outside. I did the same thing for his nightstand, just looked through some pieces I had waiting for paint and they work for now!

We still have to bring Mark's deer heads down and his mounted turkeys...that will give his living room a little more personality. There are shelves to put back into the overhead storage areas that we had taken down for painting.
I still have to hang the curtains I bought (with the big grommets).

Here is the upstairs bathroom. It's sponge painted too, but very subtly and it's tan and cleaned up very well. It matches the vanity well and so we left it. Most of what I did in here was CLEAN. There was hairspray stuck to everything! The ceiling was bad, too and I scrubbed that twice.

As I was cleaning this house, I found that the original owner of the house dated everything he did with his Dymo label maker, and this vanity is dated 1999.

ALL the white trim in the house was painted very poorly and that will be an ongoing project because there are MILES of white trim. All the doors in the house are six-panel wood doors and looked to have been stained dark originally. Whoever switched over to white primed them all, but never finished painting them.

This vanity is a great quality piece and looks very nice, it has aged well. I was pleased with how the things I bought for his bathroom looked very nice in this space.

I've discovered I don't much like cleaning glass-enclosed shower stalls. This one needs some caulking...that's on our to-do list. The gold trim and fixtures are outdated but are all very good quality name-brand pieces in excellent shape and so there is no reason to get rid of them.

The before picture of one of the bedrooms upstairs. It was yellow and Mark switched to a silly-putty color of tan.

His room is not finished, but clean, freshly painted and quiet and restful with tans and robin's egg blue accents. I still have to make the curtains. I hope to find a king sized headboard at a garage sale to paint and put on the bed. Like Mark said, "Your favorite season is coming and you'll find something, you always do!"

There was an entertainment center (a small-ish one) left in the basement that we plan to clean up and move in here for his smaller television. He needs no dresser because of his walk-in it's a spacious room now compared to the before picture.

Amazingly, most of this work was done by Mark, Me, Lem and Luke in a four day period of time. Mark had four days off in a row, Lem had two, I helped with them all and we worked nights, too.

Littler amounts of time since then have been taken doing the little odd jobs, but we did most all of the painting and cleaning in four days. We just worked our little bums off and it was fun.

I still have more to show, but this will do for now. We've got one biggie still going on that we've had to take a break on: the downstairs bathroom was still bathed in eighties wallpaper and border in teal, pink and blue.

It's been a fun time getting all that off around all the fixtures and built-ins. But, it's a second bathroom so no big hurry! I can't wait to show you the "before" on that and the difference the paint is going to make!

Mark's house is a piece of cake.


And the following story just may be why.

Did I ever tell you that in addition to the small nursery business my dad had "on the side", he also had a rental home clean up crew? Oh yes. We were they. The nursery business of planting trees and the like was mostly a fall and spring occupation.

And while I and some of my siblings were enjoying our pimply pre-teen and teen-years, and while other kids our age might have been playing sports like baseball or attending summer camp, water skiing and camping--some of us kids were enlisted in this strange army of my dad's. This army was called

"Clean out inner city rental homes after (very) disgruntled renters (or squatters) have left the premises".

HUP, two, three FOUR!

This "army of some" was required to:
A. shovel dog feces out of the living room, kitchen, bathroom or any room. (The smells. The SMELLS!) If the landlord had turned the water and power off to further "evict" as a last resort, there were even worse scenarios to greet us in the bathroom.

B. Scrape and paint inside and out.

C. Clean and scrub anything and everything and this included every. possible. thing.
Oh. My. Don't even get me started on that one.

D. Clean up the yard, this was a PIECE OF CAKE compared to the house. You just couldn't leave your rake or the mower in plain sight.

E. Make inner city house livable again, to quite possibly revisit in just a year or so. (You know: just so the new renter could move in, live there six months, stop paying rent, and then live there free as long as it took for the eviction process to take its course.)

This could be why big projects don't daunt me/us. It could also possibly be why I've never thought owning rental property would be a great way to make income.

It could also be why I've never had a crappier job since. Literally. NOTHING can compare. Maybe my dad did us a favor?! Yes, I think he did.

Our mom used to make us hose each other off in the yard before we could come back in the house once we got home from our pleasant day working in the city.

(She was afraid we'd bring cockroaches back home, and let me tell you, for cockroaches to survive Michigan winters, they had to feel quite welcome and at home in their environments.)

So....Mark's house was NOT a big project by any means. It was a piece of cake.

There was NO dog feces involved. There were no scary neighbors dropping over to tell you the stories of the house you were literally
shoveling out.

You will be happy to know that I am officially de-enlisted from the little "Army of some" that my dad had going.

But the stories, the STORIES I could tell you!
I'll leave it there.
(You should thank me.)

In other news....

I guess today's makeover story makes me a participant in something wonderful called "Metamorphosis Monday", hosted by "Between Naps on the Porch".

If you like looking at makeovers, you'll love all the redo photos and stories hosted here.

One of my favorites is this one from our gal Shannan at "Flower Patch Farm Girl". She and her husband recently traveled to Korea to adopt their sweet son named Silas and she's also got lots of good posts from their trip, but in this reveal, we see Silas cute farm boy bedroom and a shot or two of the little man himself (he's aDoRaBLE!). So when you're done here, skip on over!

HGTV ain't got nothin' on us bloggin' neighbors!

There's going to be a
(Stay tuned!)

Happy Monday to you!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Taken a couple Sundays ago...outside our back door about a quarter mile. I used my zoom to catch this group of deer heading for the woods.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Red Dog, Red Dog, Red Dog....

The puppies are growing up...they will move to their new home this weekend! We've had them since Christmas and have become quite attached. They no longer look like puppies, our adult dog is on the right, and Dan is in the middle; Ann is the one on the left. (They are so beautiful if I do say so myself!)

Soon Dan and Ann will go in for their "surgery"...and I'm sure their Nana will help them recover and baby them an extra little bit, and check in on them several times a day.

Tonight was the final load (I think!) of stuff moved to Mark's house and he's now out on his own. We were down there tonight helping finishing up a few things, and I made sure he had his favorite cereal in the cupboard, milk in the fridge, the bed made in sheets and blankets that smelled like Downy...that's my part as a mom, to make everything like home as much as possible for the first night. I don't care how old they are when they move out, Mom just wants to make up the bed for them.

I hope when he pulls back the covers tonight he knows how much we love him and how proud we are of him.

One upsetting thing is that when we took the last load, there was a police cruiser in the driveway next door. I thought, "Oh dear! What's this all about?"

We soon found out.

The neighbor's home had been broken into and her flat screen television taken, nothing else. Whoever did it had kicked in the door in broad daylight!

(That was NOT a good feeling at all.)

The police think that someone had stopped to look at a boat for sale in their front yard, found no one home when they knocked, and just kicked in the door and took the television real fast and got out. They came over to ask if we'd seen anything. Not exactly the way you want to meet your new neighbor, she's a young mom who is newly divorced....thankfully she had her parents there to help get a new door up and stay with her awhile.

It's a "safe neighborhood" and the houses not very far apart: the boldness of those who would take what others have never ceases to astound, and I think with times only getting worse and worse, it will be even more prevalent, sadly.

This is the stuff that makes moms pray!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things About...

::green shoots appearing from out of the cold, drab ground::blue skies::fluffy clouds::sunshine::greening grass::birdsong::longer days::fewer clothes::breezes::flags flappin::planning gardens::Easter::tulips::Mother's Day::baseball games::sidewalk chalk::crocus::blowing bubbles::porch sittin'::fresh dirt::potted plants::clothes flappin' on the line::lacy emerging leaves::baby chicks::bunny rabbits::horses frolicking in the fields::baby lambs::wind chimes::grilling out::daffodils::long walks::bicycle rides::farmers plowing and planting::a kitty stretched out in the sunshine::lacy curtains blowing softy against an open window::crickets singing::frogs croaking::garage sales::convertibles::lilacs::forsythia::wind in my hair::flip flops::the smell of freshly cut grass::seventy-five degree days::sleepin' with the windows open::

all photos from last year's photo file

So, what are some of your favorite things about spring?

Beautiful....(Life Is!)

Is this not the prettiest color?

I just liked this photo I snapped at Christmas time: my daughter received this ring from her husband and I thought the color was just brilliant.

You know me, I can't post without a picture, and today's pick was just random, something that looked pretty as I scrolled through the file.

And, while I was at it, without her knowing, I snapped a picture of her other hand; loved the contrast of the old, worn Carhartt jacket with her tiny hand and her wedding ring. (She LOVES her old Carhartt, and has had it forEVER.)

I can look at these pictures in the months that we don't get to see each other and I can "see" her....I miss her so much.

We've all been busily helping our son get his house ready; we've got the bulk of the big stuff all done now and he's moving in on Thursday! Furniture was delivered today. I cleaned carpet yesterday and today, one more room to go. I still have a few walls to wash, windows and screens will be done after that. He moves all his stuff from here in the next few days.

In addition, life goes on. The guys working, and with our teenager: basketball practices and games and then tonight was a choir concert...busy, busy!

Tonight he told us he might run track this spring. (I'm so glad...I think he'll love it!) Times like these are when I'm thankful I'm able to be home and take care of things and make sure everyone has what they need to get where they're going and do what they're doing.

I do realize that when I'm older, I' ll look back and say to myself:
"Those were the best days of my life!"

Because, really, they ARE.

How are you all doing?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Half Price House...

If you're not my son's aunt, grandma or sister, you may not be interested in today's post.

But then again, you might!

Son number one has been saving for a home since he was sixteen. I'm not kidding. He's a good saver. In his early twenties, he bought his truck, new, paid half down and paid off the rest in two years, to have a decent vehicle. This way, he figured he'd have a decent vehicle for at least a good ten years or so, and no payment on it while he was paying a mortgage. Good thinking, no?

Then, when he did buy, he wanted to get the home paid off as soon as he could. More good thinking. He wanted a good deal on a house, and by waiting, we found one. We had watched this one go up for sale--but it was $44K more than he paid for it-- when it was listed last summer.

Yup, 44K. I had looked it up at the full listing price last summer, and just wrote it off, it was way out of his price range.

But summer came and went, and fall arrived, and fall was almost over and the trees were bare before I checked it out again. The price had dropped 34K in those months since summer!

Something told me there was a motivated seller.

It was now something that was within his price range, but still 10K over what he wanted to spend. (We've always told our kids buy a home BELOW your means.... however, that is NOT what a realtor would have advised him. He made up his mind this house was the top of his price range.)

So we called, and went and looked.

It was a wonderful house, nothing wrong with it that a little paint, tile or updating wouldn't fix...just needed some TLC--no major remodeling, nothing really to stop him so he got brave and made an offer 10K below the asking price, which made it exactly what he thought he could spend and still afford to eat, drive and all those other things that humans like to do!

(His purchase price is just about half of what the previous owner paid for it.)

Sadly, we found out, it was a divorce situation and both parties had moved out and stopped making payments and had a short sale and a looming foreclosure. Mark made his offer and it took three months to find out, but the bank finally accepted it.

Within TWO WEEKS of acceptance, he had the keys and owns it. He took a fifteen year mortgage and the day he got it he told me "I can't wait to pay it off, I hate owing people money."

Paying off debt is the old-fashioned American way. In fact, I don't know WHO thought it would be good to sell the lie to the masses that mortgage debt is GOOD, but I DO NOT agree!! I think a person should have a goal to own their home outright as soon as possible.

I can't tell you how happy I am and how very PROUD I am of my son and his purchase. I'm thankful that he had an opportunity like this...and sadly, the couple owed almost 100K MORE than Mark paid for this place, and I'm sure they'll have to declare bankruptcy...their divorce is terrible, even worse than losing the house.

But I think that when you want something, and you're willing to sacrifice, save, and wait for it....wonderful things can happen.

And we've seen it happen with this.

For the last four or five days, we've been working on it, painting and cleaning and stripping wallpaper. It's actually been lots of fun! I like the house more every time we go there. Soon I'll have some before and after pictures to show.

The living room was red and the kitchen was pink so there's some major changes there! Tomorrow I have to go there because Mark bought some furniture over the weekend and the delivery man will be there while he's at work.

In a couple days, he moves out and is on his own.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quick & Easy Curtains...

I don't know if you've ever admired a shower curtain and wished it was a curtain, but you don't have to wish, just buy it! This one matched the shower curtains that hang around my slipper tub and I thought why CAN'T it be a window curtain? The fact that it was on clearance was a big help in making my decision.

Here's the thing: shower curtains are cheap fabric, especially if they're on sale or on clearance. The fabric is usually excellent and durable quality and washes well, and the measuring, cutting, hemming and finishing is already done for you!

So, for under $10, you can have a pretty nice curtain, with some ribbon to stand in those shower curtain ring holes....look at all the work you've saved yourself!

Just cut the ribbon in equal lengths, thread through the holes and tie a knot! Slip over a tension rod (or whatever you already have!) and it's the quickest (and kinda cute, too!) curtain you've ever dealt with.

In this old farmhouse with long skinny windows, shower curtains work exceptionally well, no length needs to be cut off, they fall at just the right spot on the baseboard.

And for my son's new home I bought several sets of matching shower curtains, (in LINEN!) to use for quick, easy and cheap window coverings in his house, which I hope to show you soon!

It will save a lot of time, and any parts that are cut off the length will be used for throw pillows for quick and easy pillow form covers!